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Yeast cells, most commonly Candida species, live in our bodies naturally. They help break down and get rid of the dead cells that would otherwise build up in and around your body.
Having a healthy level of Candida cells present helps regulate your immune, digestive, and reproductive systems, among other things.
Yeast cells are technically considered a fungus. When too much Candida is present in an area of your body, the balance of healthy bacteria and microflora in your body is off-balance. That’s why the symptoms of an infection begin to appear.
This type of infection is called candidiasis, or a yeast infection. It can happen because of an overgrowth of existing yeast or an infection you become exposed to. A yeast infection shows up
- in your mouth
- in your vagina and vulva area
- in the skin folds around and on your breasts and nipples
A yeast overgrowth in the skin between or under your breasts is a type of intertrigo. Intertrigo is a rash that forms in skin folds. Intertrigo can also be caused by bacteria and other fungus.
While you can pass yeast to another person, they won’t develop a yeast overgrowth unless they have an imbalance of normal skin flora.
Yeast infections on your skin share some of the same symptoms as another skin condition called inverse psoriasis. Learn the difference between inverse psoriasis and intertrigo.
A yeast infection on the breasts tends to look like a raised, shiny, red rash in the warm, moist folds of your skin. If the yeast overgrowth becomes more severe, it can also cause your skin to crack and bleed.
Like other yeast infections, itching, burning, and pain at the rash site are common symptoms. Breast yeast infections can give off a bad odor, too.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause your skin to rub against itself in ways you aren’t used to. Wearing bras and tops that aren’t designed for breastfeeding or pregnancy can aggravate this problem by trapping sweat and moisture in the folds of your skin.
But yeast infections under your breasts aren’t always related to pregnancy or breastfeeding. This same kind of rash can appear anywhere your skin rubs together, such as:
- between your thighs
- in your groin area
- under your arms
If you’re overweight or have diabetes, you have a higher risk for developing a yeast infection on your breasts.
Personal hygiene habits can also put you at higher risk. Not rinsing and towel-drying the area around and under your breasts may trigger a yeast infection in these areas. Wearing an unsupportive bra may lead to a yeast infection as well.
Environmental factors, such as humidity and heat, make these infections more common during summer months and in warm climates.
Keep the area dry and expose it to air as often as you can. Make sure to cleanse the area daily with a mild soap and warm water. Make sure to pat the area dry after washing.
Over-the-counter options to treat yeast infections include:
- clotrimazole, an antifungal
- hydrocortisone cream to reduce redness and swelling
Prescription-strength antifungals are also available to treat severe cases of yeast infections on your skin, such as topical nystatin.
If these treatments aren’t effective, your doctor can prescribe an oral antifungal medication, like fluconazole (Diflucan).
If your rash doesn’t improve after treatment with antifungal medications, talk with your doctor about investigating your skin condition further.
If you have recurrent yeast infections between or under your breasts, consider taking these steps to make them less likely to come back:
- Wear clothes and undergarments made of natural, breathable fabrics that don’t trap moisture close to your skin.
- Always shower and dry off completely after a workout or time spent outdoors.
- Wash and dry any bras or other tops you wear close to your skin during an active yeast infection. Consider using bleach in the wash.
- Consider changing your diet to cut down on sugar and carbohydrates. Increase your intake of probiotics, like those found in yogurt
- If you’re overweight or have diabetes, talk with your doctor about healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes you can make to avoid future yeast infections.
Over-the-counter topicals can soothe most yeast infections on your chest. There are also hygiene and lifestyle remedies that may reduce how often these kinds of yeast infections come back.
If you’re breastfeeding and your baby has thrush in their mouth, seek guidance from a lactation consultant or your doctor.
Enlist a doctor’s help for uncomfortable or persistent symptoms.